Those on group flights will be met at Guatemala City airport and transferred to Antigua (approx. 1 to 1½ hour journey). Land only clients will meet at the start hotel in Antigua.
This morning we set off towards Pacaya Volcano. The hike up Pacaya involves around 2.5 hours of continuous ascent on paths coated in volcanic ash, with much of the route being surrounded by subtropical forest. Due to the unpredictable volcanic activity, often we can't go all the way to the top. However, with clear weather we should have views of Guatemala City and the Pacific lowlands stretching away to the east. Close to the top, we break out of the trees and after a short walk across open land we come across the vast dry lava field. Due to the shifting lava flow, molten rock is unlikely to be visible but occasionally people can be seen toasting marshmallows on the fiery surface! After our packed lunch we will go on another walk for about an hour to further explore the volcano before following the same path back to our vehicle. The descent takes around 90 minutes and the drive back to Antigua a further 90 minutes. On arrival, we have a walking tour, visiting the main sights of Antigua's colonial city centre.
After breakfast we drive west towards Lake Atitlan. En route, we visit the Postclassic Mayan archaeological site of Iximche, a well-preserved city complete with ball courts, palaces and temples. We stop for lunch after visiting the site, then drive to the trailhead for a 2-3 hour hike to Lake Atitlan. The route is mainly downhill, passing through farmland and small villages before ending with spectacular views over the lake and the surrounding volcanoes. We spend the night in the bustling lakeside town of Panajachel.
We take a boat across the lake to Cerro de Oro, one of the least-visited villages on the lake shore and dominated by the volcano of the same name. After walking through the charming village, we reach the start of the short but intense climb through fields and coffee plantations to the summit (1870m). On the way we will pass a sacred site still used by Mayan shamans in their rituals. After a quick descent, we board a local truck for the short transfer to Santiago Atitlan where we will have a stroll around the main square and lively local market before boarding another boat to San Juan, where we spend the night.
Today has been left free to relax, walk along the lake shore or maybe even take a dip in the cool waters. It is possible to visit neighbouring villages from here, you may wish to spend some time at the local artists' and weavers' cooperatives or embark on a 5 hour climb to Volcan San Pedro where, if weather allows, you can experience a 360 degree view of Lake Atitlan and the surrounding Volcanoes.
This morning we begin our trek into the highlands with an ascent of Indian's Nose Peak, which derives its name from the fact that it resembles a Mayan face. The initial climb to the summit is quite steep and winding but we are rewarded with impressive views of the lake's shimmering waters as well as the peaks of the northern highlands. From the top, we follow a mountainous trail to the village of Santa Clara La Laguna, known locally for the baskets and handmade bags produced by the villagers. We camp nearby for the next two nights. Today's walk usually takes around 5-6 hours.
We have a fantastic full-day ridge walk today as we climb Pico San Marcos (2800m), ascending through highland forests and plantations. Near the top of the mountain is a cave which has been used in Mayan rituals for centuries. The summit is almost as high as the neighbouring San Pedro Volcano, but its location allows us to enjoy views in all directions so we can see not only Lake Atitlan but all the surrounding volcanoes and the main bulk of the highlands which we will traverse over the next few days. We return to Santa Clara camp in the early afternoon.
We leave camp this morning and follow ancient Mayan trade routes, crossing the Nahulate river and ravine as we move deeper into the highlands. We pass through several villages along the way and we camp tonight in the area of old Santa Catarina, whose population has gradually decreased as geological activity has resulted in the collapse of several houses over the years. We may get the chance to challenge the locals to a game of football or enjoy a Temazcal, a pre-hispanic sweat lodge use to purify the body, once we are settled at the campsite.
Today's hike takes us onto a high plateau (approx. 3000m) which forms the eastern extension of the Zunil mountain range. We start in Pacific cloud forest before we reach the plateau where the landscape opens up and we enjoy open highland scenery. The area is home to the Quiche Maya people who still manufacture their textiles using traditional tools such as foot looms and backstrap looms. Our afternoon tea will be shared with the welcoming local community and their children.
After breakfast we leave camp and hike up the Zunil ridge, with spectacular views of the Quetzaltenango Valley as we make our way to the 3542m summit of Zunil, a picture-perfect conical volcano. From the top, we can see 14 other volcanoes as well as Lake Atitlan in the distance. The descent takes us through cloud forest to the Georginas hot springs, where we camp for the next two nights. In the evening, we can soak away any aching limbs from the day's hike in the hot springs while enjoying a nice cold drink.
Today has been left free to enjoy more time at the springs and to explore the surrounding area. There will be the opportunity for the approx 4-5 hour ascent of Santo Tomas Volcano (also known locally as Pecul). The hike starts in thick forest which gradually thins out into lighter pine woodland as we gain height - on a clear day we may be able to see the Pacific Ocean from the summit (3505m).
This morning we have a short visit to Guatemala's largest vegetable market at Almolonga, set in the heart of the country's main agricultural region. The market gives us an insight into the life of the local Mayan communities and many of the traders and customers still wear traditional highland dress. After stopping at the market, we then start our 1 hour hike up the 3197m Cerro Quemado ('Burnt Peak'), a jagged volcanic rock formation. The craggy summit is very interesting to explore and there are great views of the town of Quetzaltenango, or Xela as it is known locally. We will have a 2 hour walk at the top of the peak through the “Mar de Piedra” or Stone Sea , an area full of dry lava rocks. We will have time after our descent in the late afternoon to explore the colonial town.
We start early this morning to transfer about 40 minutes to the entrance of Volcan Santa Maria. Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa María volcano is one of the most prominent of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rises dramatically above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. Santa Maria erupted catastrophically in 1902 destroying its former summit. Since then, a complex of new lava domes has been growing inside the scar left by the 1902 eruption. We begin our 3 or 4 hour hike up to the summit of the volcano. The path is quite steep, and we will be walking mainly on loose dirt and ashes. As we approach the summit of the volcano, we will pass through a forest which has been burned by old eruptions. The views from the summit are quite impressive - on a clear day we can up to nine volcanoes. The summit (3773m) also offers spectacular views onto erupting Santiaguito. The descent takes around 2-3 hours to where we meet the vehicle. A 3-4 hour transfer takes us back to colourful Antigua.
Today has been left free to wander the colonial streets of Antigua and pick up some last-minute souvenirs from the well-stocked local markets. There is also an opportunity to visit Finca El Pilar, a private cloud forest reserve located on the outskirts of Antigua. When there, a hike to the Cucurucho Mountain is possible, offering spectacular views towards Guatemala City.
The trip ends after breakfast today. Those on group flights will be transferred to Guatemala City airport for the return journey to London.